I made hot and sour soup for lunch, but as I was getting ready to serve it, Lev was clearly out of sorts. He was hungry, so he wanted some, but soup was too difficult for him to eat, and in any case, it was a bit too spicy — I had made it quite hot and quite sour. So, to give him a chance to try some, I boiled a brick of ramen and mixed a small amount of soup with nut butter to make a peanut sauce for the noodles, for a more baby-friendly taste experience. This worked: he ate the noodles hungrily, more than I expected, but while feeding them to him I discovered I had a difficulty. The noodles were too long, so when I twirled them around the fork completely they made a bundle so large it seemed rude to push it into his mouth, or if I left the twirling incomplete, then long lengths of noodle were left dangling off, which he would slurp up happily, but, less happily for me, big goopy blobs of peanut sauce would be launched to adorn the front of his onesie.
Then I remembered that my mom Anne had a trick to solve this problem: before cooking, she would break the dried ramen block into halves or quarters. My first thought was: how clever! — the noodles would naturally and easily end up a uniform baby-friendly length.
What I Actually Remember
However, my pleasure at this trick was diminished when I recalled the memory in full: I don’t at all remember the benefits of eating the un-gloopy, manageable noodles as a baby, but I do very clearly remember the feeling of liberation when I was quite a bit older, started cooking ramen for myself and I realized one doesn’t have to break the block. At that time, the broken ramen noodles were just the way noodles had been since time immemorial, so I was surprised and delighted to discover an unbroken block results in noodles that are so much more exciting: you can twirl, you can slurp — no more chasing these boring short baby noodles around the plate with a spoon! It was exciting; it was dangerous; it was liberating.
So my pleasure at the thought of breaking the ramen block was followed by dismay — what am I turning into? When Lev gets older he will he see me as the mom who fills the world with boring noodles? He won’t remember the too fat noodle bundles that didn’t fit in his mouth, or the gunky baby shirts, but I will remember —- and it will have taught me habits that he will find restrictive and stultifying.
What He Won’t Remember
He won’t know that before I was a ramen-block-breaking mom I was a fearless and liberated non-ramen-block breaking teenager, just as he will long to be. He won’t know that I only let go of the spirit of not breaking the ramen block under the weight of laundry and a zillions of other chores, and perhaps because of the realization that less laundry means more energy to pursue causes of liberation that matter more than the unalienable right to twirl and messily slurp one’s noodles. But he won’t know any of that. All he’ll know is that mommy makes boring short baby noodles, and he wants something different.
There’s a quote, falsely attributed to Bill Gates, “Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were.” Gates never said that, and I don’t particularly like the essay or book written by the actual author, Charles Sykes, but it is a good quote.
The Upside of Self-Involvement
Then again, it is probably good that Lev’s worldview is restricted, and possibly excessively self-involved and self-congratulatory. Alexey commented after Lev had spent two or three months straight on concentrated stair climbing practice: “Kid, I hate to break it to you, but even if you learn to climb stairs, the world will still not be your oyster.” To preserve his motivation, it is good Lev doesn’t know how how much he still has to learn. It is good he can stop, congratulate himself and feel like the most accomplished baby ever because he walked up a whole flight of stairs all by himself. If that self-involvement and self-importance implies a lack of consideration, I suppose that’s merely a necessary consequence.